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King for a Day: Leave My Jerry Alone

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I'm not a great fan of Jerry Lewis. The last time I found him funny was when he put those eggs in Dean Martin's tap shoes in 1952 at the Concord.

And his Labor Day telethon is not my favorite form of entertainment anymore. I'm all telethoned out watching the heart-rending pleas for that other seemingly incurable disease, public television and its perpetual begathons.

Still I feel sorry for Jerry the way the gay & lesbian movement has gone after him for something he said on the 42nd annual telethon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

I didn't see the whole 24-hour show. I tend to zone out when I start to realize that I won't be hearing Sammy Davis Jr. singing the "Candy Man" song one more time, the reason I used to watch in the old days.

It was in the 18th hour of the Herculean event from Las Vegas this time, when Jerry came down with the Isaiah Washington Disease, uttering the f-word that got the "Grey's Anatomy" star in such deep hot water.

I don't use words like that even in the context of reporting in the free air of The Internet. Anybody who utters the hard facts in the lexiographic porn case itself is in danger of being placed in the stocks of Downtown Cyberspace. So you'll just have to fill in the blank yourself.

By Tuesday, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was going around town ringing the fire alarm bell about a word few may have heard.

By Tuesday, Jerry immediately began apologizing for what he called "a joking comment" to a crew member. He has been kicking himself all the way to Las Vegas for using a term in his monologue, denying that he has"any biases in this regard."

That's no excuse, of course. It was a stupid word to use, showing a vocabulary deficit, and a challenged sense of humor. But there were extenuating circumstances.

The show is "live," largely unscripted. As a stand-up comedian, Lewis relies on his stream of consciousness to allow him to float along when faced with dead air. Lewis should take his stream out to be brain-washed and dried.

Everybody has a few politically incorrect words still floating around in the murky swamps of their unconscious, or even conscious. Many are there from our childhoods, when we didn't know any better. It would be a better world if that word, and the other words that offend, had fallen into the sixth dimension and disappeared.

In Jerry's case, his psyche may be more twisted than other comedians. While many of us don't take him seriously as a comic anymore, he takes himself very seriously ever since he won the Chevalier award in France in the 1980's. He still regards himself as the King of Comedy or Ruritania. Maybe if told his idea of a joke in French it wouldn't have aroused so much ire.

There were a lot of other words Jerry used on Labor Day which I personally found offensive. I wont mention them, either. Don't want to start another brush fire that Jerry would have to run around hosing down.

Suffice it to say, a form of battle fatigue sets in after a number of hours of hosting a telethon. Everybody has their own breaking point. By the eighteenth hour Jerry is lucky he still remembered the name of the disease for which he was raising money..

You would think GLAAD would have cut Jerry some slack. After all, he is in his 81st year. He has lost a step or two after 42 years of running the marathon.

You would think the focus of the post- event reporting would be the amount of money Jerry raised to fight muscular dystrophy. It was only $63.4 million this time, three million better than the last time.

It's too bad GLAAD didn't call the media's attention to all the good work he has been doing, helping kids with MD, regardless of their sexual orientation. Jerry's hard work doesn't seem so cool today as it did when it all began in 1965. To rain on his parade after such a triumph, seems like, as they used to say in the old days, a bummer.

I'm just grateful the powers-that-be haven't dropped Jerry and the telethon now the way protesters got rid of another celebrity fund raiser for kids' charities, Don Imus. In this case, I suspect that would make the protesters even more happy than all the money Jerry raised. The media publicity would have been worth it in the protesters eyes in this absurd PC world we now live in.